DRYING OF FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
This process can be carried out without any difficulty, and requires very little expense. Trays can be made by nailing together four wooden laths in the form of a square, and stretching ‘between them some cheese cloth, or wire gauze, but it is important to protect the latter with some form of material to prevent rubbing of fruit.
Except for beans, the drying of vegetables is not recommended, and it is much more practicable to store root crops as already described. Peas will not dry well, with perhaps the exception of the variety Harrison’s Glory. Runner beans are also unsatisfactory.
Beans. Young and fresh beans can be dried successfully. These can be dried whole, but the older ones should be cut into strips with a sharp knife. The beans should be tied up in cheese cloth or put in a wire basket, and the bag or basket put into boiling water and kept there for about four or five minutes. The next process will be the spreading out of the beans on trays and heating in the oven at 120 degrees Fahrenheit and gradually up to 150 degrees
Fahrenheit. When the beans are crisp they should be cooled for twelve hours and then., packed in well-corked bottles and kept away from the light. Before boiling for tabl use, soak in cold water for twelve hours.
Dutch brown beans, although grown like French beans, are not used in the same way. It is the beans from within the pods that are cooked, and these store very easily in jars. The plant must be left in the ground until the pods turn yellow. Then it should be hung up in an airy shed to dry. The pods can be shelled and the beans stored away and used as haricot beans. It should be noted that Dutch beans are rich in protein, fat and Carbohydrates, and have a calorific value of approximately severi hundred per pound. They provide an excellent substitute for meat.
The very greatest care should be taken to choose fresh and ripe fruit, as these will keep a better colour and have a better flavour. Peel ‘and core according to type of fruit, and lay out on the trays, to be dried in a moderately warm oven at a temperature between 120 degrees and x50 degrees Fahrenheit. Start with slow heating to prevent undue hardening. This may result in bursting of the skins, as in the case of plums.
Apples. The drying of apples should only be attempted for varieties which will not store well; windfalls can also be used. It will be necessary first to peel and core and take out all blemishes, and then cut into rings from in. to in. thickness. Rings can either be threaded on sticks and placed across the drying trays, or placed on the trays in single layers. The trays should then be placed near the fire or in a cool oven at a temperature not rising above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. If this is maintained, the rings should be satisfactorily dried in about five to six hours. The texture should be that of chamois leather, and if properly dried the rings will separate at once if squeezed together with the hand and then released. At this stage they will be ready to take out of the oven. Put aside for about twelve hours and then store away in a dry place.
There are two methods of drying pears. The fruit should be peeled, cut into quarters and cored, and placed into a solution of salt and water (1 oz. Salt to one gallon water) for about one minute. Discoloration will be prevented in this way. After shaking off the moisture the slices should be placed on trays and dried in a cool oven, keeping the temperature at 110 degrees Fahrenheit rising to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
Only certain varieties are suitable for drying. The Victoria plum and Pond’s Seedling are the most satisfactory. The fruit must be washed and then laid on the drying tray and placed in the oven, but taking care not to raise the temperature above 120 degrees Fahrenheit until the skin shows signs of shrivelling. The temperature can then be raised to 150 degrees Fahrenheit and kept thus until the process is complete. This can be tested by squeezing the plums and noting if the skin remains intact and without exudation of juice. At this stage the fruit can be taken out of the oven, laid aside for about twelve hours and then packed away.
Small fruits are not worth drying as they shrink and lose colour.
Cooking of dried fruit.
Always soak dried fruits in water for some two days prior to cooking. The water in which they have been soaked should then be boiled, and boiling gently continued until the fruit is tender. Do not add the sugar at the beginning but only a short time before boiling is completed.
It is useful to have a store of dried herbs during the winter months. The procedure is quite simple. Always gather the young plants just at the flowering stage, and when quite dry. Leaves should be picked from the stalks of the large-leaved herbs, but this will not be necessary with the small-leaved kinds. With the former, the leaves should be tied in muslin and dipped into boiling water for a minute, and then after shaking, placed in a cool oven, keeping the temperature to between no degrees and 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
The small-leaved kinds such as thyme, etc. must first be washed, then tied into bundles, covered with muslin and hung up to dry near the kitchen range.
In both cases when dried and crisp, the herbs should be crushed with a rolling pin, powdered, and then stored in bottles and kept in the dark.
If parsley is being dried, it is better to place in a hot oven for a minute rather than use the slow method. Scorching must be guarded against.